Determination: The Battle of the Mule

Boy ice skating


“There are only about 20 birthdays you should be allowed to celebrate. The other ones, you’re wasting cake and paper. Did you not see the Al Gore movie? We need to conserve cake and paper. We are running out.”

–          Patton Oswalt


I turned 38 years-old today. I know, other than the salt-mostly-pepper hair, you’d never know it to look at me. When I got outta rehab last year, within 3 weeks, I had joined my gym and since then, it’s rare that a week goes by that I don’t get there at least 3 times per week . The reasons for this are three-fold:


1) Coming out of rehab, I had a lot of time on hands.


2) I have an addictive personality and if I wasn’t going to get my high through drugs and alcohol, by God, I was gonna get it someway and the endorphin rush of exercise has always had an appeal for me.


3) I turn 38 years-old today. And I was going to make myself as appealing as possible to the opposite sex that my age and genetics would allow.


So far, it’s been a pretty good run. I won’t bore you with “I lost this much weight and built this much muscle” because I honestly don’t know. Besides, my sister put it best in as simple terms as necessary when I tried calculating those figures and she said “If you weighed 215 pounds then and you weigh 215 pounds now, you haven’t lost any weight.” Well played, Liz.


Also since I left Valley Hope, I made a go of trying school again. But to no avail. Seems that the bacterial meningitis that assaulted my brain saw fit to remove certain portions that effect my cognitive abilities, thus rendering me unable to retain the vast body of knowledge necessary to succeed in the veterinary technician program I had enrolled in. So since I dropped out, I’ve spent the last 6 weeks beating my head against the draw bridge of the American job market. The bridge came down long enough for me to fail at a crash-course training class for a telemarketing job and one job interview. Then it drew right back up again and left me staring at the moat filled with Jagermeister. Wisely, I immediately stepped back from said moat and reconsidered other options for getting into the castle.


A couple days ago, my brother and his family were in town for a “Very Sigler Holiday Blitz!” We had our family gift exchange (we had the gifts divvied up and open in under 30 minutes, a family record), and a small “Happy Birthday” sing-along complete with cake (In your face, Patton!) at the book signing party to celebrate the release of my Mom’s book about raising my sister who is on the Autism spectrum. Then a pizza dinner replete with family and loved ones before my brother’s clan shuffled off back to Rhode Island yesterday.


In the middle of the chaos, I was driving home to my house one day to retrieve some items and catch a meal and a shower when I saw the image at the start of this post. As I was driving past, this little boy was on all fours on the ice skating rink. By the time I had pulled over to take this photo, he dusted himself off and was attempting to skate around rink again.


Judging from how long he stayed down the first time I had seen him fall, his head hanging, he had been skating and falling for a good long time. And yet here he was, trying again. It was a cold Sunday morning, maybe 15 degrees. And it was a little neighborhood ice skating rink, the same place I used to play pick-up tackle football when I was a kid, so it didn’t surprise me that he was alone with no parents or siblings to break his concentration. Just him, his skates and the ice. By the time I snapped the photo, he had righted himself and was making yet another go-round of the rink.


It struck me how much I had in common with this little boy. In the middle of the cold, dark night (Alright, it was late afternoon, but I get to take a little poetic license here) with no one else but himself to answer to and nothing but the seemingly Sisyphean task that lay in front of him, his goal was clear, his motives pure. Perhaps his technique was flawed as he was doing this by himself. There was nobody to hold his arms or catch him if he fell. And I could tell from watching him he wouldn’t have had it any other way. He didn’t want people to catch him if he fell. Neither do I. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t want concessions made for me by the Disability Office or my old job or anyone else, not if it’s something I should be able to do on my own. This is the same subtle resilience that I admired in my tough-as-nails-(but bat shit crazy) Nana, It’s the same trait she passed on to her son with polio and his son with Tourette’s syndrome and macro degeneration and my mom passed on to my sister. Thank God I have it to. It’s in my blood. Tell me I can’t do something and I will simply grin, shake it off, and set out to make you rue those words. Thank god I realized that knowledge about myself in time to use it.

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